Shaddai: Defining the ALMIGHTY

ALMIGHTY: Shaddai. Masculine noun. (Strong’s 7706).

Root: שַׁדַּי

Sounds like: sha’dah-eye.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us have heard the term God Almighty, but we’ve never actually thought about what the word Almighty actually means. You may be surprised to find out that it is connected to the word shadad, a verb meaning to destroy, to desolate, to ruin (7703), as well as the noun shod, meaning destruction, violence, devastation (7701).

Adding to this revelation is the fact there are only two mentions of “demons” in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Hebrew word for them is shedim (7700), encapsulating the idea that demons are exclusively “destruction bringers”.

God is, of course, much more complex than a simple destroyer, but this idea of an Almighty God being a destructive God, can be found in the one and only spot in the book of Isaiah that used the word Shaddai:

Isaiah 13:6-11

Wail, for the day of YHWH is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty [k-showd mi-Shaddai]. Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labour, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame.

Behold, the day of YHWH is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.

Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.

I am aware that these kind of passages freak people out a bit. Many of us hope for a fluffy, happy, benevolent God who wants to shower us with gifts, and give great celestial hugs… and I’m happy to report that He does give us gifts, (the greatest gift of all actually), and He does want to hold tightly onto us. 

At the same time we also want a God who sees injustice and acts on it. We want a God who fights for good, and who raises up the downtrodden, and puts an end to the wickedness that humanity has gravitated towards. In those cases we need a God who gets angry, who hates injustice, who despises evil, and who removes it.

Some have also associated Shaddai with the Hebrew word for breast, shad (7699), which is almost always connected to breastfeeding… showing God to be a Creator who is also All-Nourishing to His creation. Hebrew has a way of taking multiple concepts to explain one word, giving it a poetic beauty. It’s a very intuitive language.

YHWH can create, and He can maintain His creation, and He can also destroy; the power behind all of that is unimaginable and beyond our full comprehension. Almighty, or Shaddai, as a word, tries to capture all of that.

The Almighty in Job

The book with the most intense collection of the word Shaddai is the book of Job. Out of the forty-eight times the word Almighty shows up in the Tanakh,  thirty-one of them are found in Job, meaning that the book of Job holds approximately 65% of all “Almighty” occurrences found in the Old Testament Bible. 

Job perhaps felt anything but blessed by God. God saw Job as a man of upright faithfulness, and He allowed Job to be tested, to prove to the Adversary that God’s faith in Job was well founded. But this was a hard test for Job to face, and it nearly broke him.

Job had three “friends” who advised him: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Each friend frequently used the term Almighty to describe God. 

Eliphaz, (see also: Job 15:20-25, Job 22:1-3, 15-17, 23-26), saw the benefits of a disciplining God:

Job 5:17

Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty [Shaddai].

Bildad saw the Almighty God one who delivered the wicked to their own fate, but he also saw that the Almighty could have compassion on the penitent:

Job 8:3-7 

“Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty [Shaddai] pervert what is right? If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression

If you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty [Shaddai], if you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate. Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”

Zophar’s, use of the title Almighty showed God as Unlimited, Immeasurable, Unrestrainable and All-knowing:

Job 11:7-11 (Zophar)

“Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty [Shaddai]? They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If He passes by or shuts up, or calls an assembly, who can restrain Him? For He knows false men, and He sees iniquity without investigating.

To Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, God was a disciplining God with unlimited abilities. Job didn’t argue this point. He hoped that the wicked would drink of the wrath of the Almighty [Shaddai](Job 21:20). But Job also felt the devastating weight of this Almighty God:

Job 6:1-4, 10-14 (Job)

Then Job answered, “Oh that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas; therefore my words have been rash. For the arrows of the Almighty [Shaddai] are within me, their poison my spirit drinks; the terrors of God are arrayed against me….

…But it is still my consolation, and I rejoice in unsparing pain, that I have not denied the words of the Holy One. What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should endure? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? Is it that my help is not within me, and that deliverance is driven from me? For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; so that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty [Shaddai].”

But the more Job heard his friends passive aggressive accusations the more he realized that he could face God and argue his point… that the Almighty may be all these overwhelming things, but He would still hear those who cried out to Him:

 Job 13:1-5 (Job)

“Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty [Shaddai], and I desire to argue with God. But you smear with lies; you are all worthless physicians. O that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!”

Again Job drove home the point that even though this God was unlimited, immeasurable, unrestrainable and all-knowing, He was not unhearing. Although it was a terrifying prospect to question God, Job would not be silenced by fear:

Job 23:16-17  (Job)

“It is God who has made my heart faint, and the Almighty [w-Shaddai] who has dismayed me, but I am not silenced by the darkness, nor deep gloom which covers me.”

And YHWH did hear and He replied:

Job 40:1-5 (YHWH)

“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”

Then Job answered YHWH and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.”

Although Job realized that he should close his mouth and open his ears to what God had to say, the book still tells us that this Almighty God was not a deity who wanted to silence His people. He welcomed conversation, even the difficult questions. In chapters 40, 41, and 42 God and Job, have a dialogue. This Almighty God wants to connect with humans. He wants a relationship with us.

There was yet another person in the book of Job who had something to say about the role of the Almighty. Elihu was an enigmatic character who showed up late in the book of Job. There appears to be significant debate on who this person was, and whether his rhetoric was Godly or ghastly. The fact that God does not reprimand Elihu, unlike the three friends, potentially gives his words some value. His use of the word Almighty is interesting:

Job 32:6-9  (Elihu)

So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite spoke out and said, “I am young in years and you are old; therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think. I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom.

But it is a spirit [ruakh] in man, and the breath of the Almighty [w-nish’mat Shaddai] gives them understanding. The abundant in years may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice.”

Elihu recognized that age meant nothing in regards to wisdom. It was the breath of this All-Amazing Almighty God which commissioned wisdom and discernment. Destruction was not the main focus of the Almighty… it is the Spirit, or breath of God, which lives within us, that gives us wisdom and strength. Elihu later explained how the Spirit of God and the breath of the Almighty affected him:

Job 33:4-6  (Elihu)

The Spirit of God [ruakh El] has made me, and the breath of the Almighty [w-nish’mat Shaddai] gives me life. Refute me if you can; array yourselves before me, take your stand. Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay.”

Elihu, whose name literally meant “my God is He”, proclaimed that although he was human, within him was the breath of the All-Amazing One, and that breath gave him life. With that kind of power he stood on equal ground to anyone else.

Elihu then explored the character of God. Although God was Almighty, He would never be wicked nor would He ever twist justice. He had the power to do it, but it was not in His nature to do it.

Job 34:10-22  (Elihu)

“Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to do wrong. For He pays a man according to his work, and makes him find it according to his way. Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.

Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid on Him the whole world? If He should determine to do so, if He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.

But if you have understanding, hear this; listen to the sound of my words. Shall one who hates justice rule? And will you condemn the righteous mighty One, who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’ to nobles, ‘Wicked ones’; who shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands? In a moment they die, and at midnight people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away without a hand. For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves..”

To Elihu God had the balance of being Almighty in check. He was a God who saw all, who stood up against injustice, and was the ultimate in Goodness.

Job 37:23 (Elihu)

The Almighty—we cannot find Him; He is exalted in power and He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness.”

YHWH was beyond what most people thought His title of “Almighty” meant! It was not violence that motivated God, it was justice and righteousness! But as an All Creating God, YHWH had the ability, and the right, to be All Destroying. 

If you make something with your own abilities then it’s your right to destroy it, if you’re not happy with the outcome. God had the right to destroy but it didn’t mean that He would. In fact He wouldn’t, because He made a promise. He made a Covenant promise with humanity that He would never again completely destroy the earth with the sea. 

Genesis 9:11-13

YHWH: “I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”

God made covenants with humanity… promises showing that He would be an Almighty God who promoted life, not an Almighty God who championed destruction.

EliasSch_pixabay
Photo by EliasSch (pixabay.com)

A Family Blessed by the Almighty

The word Almighty came out of concepts which included both destruction and nourishment, giving it an essence of being All Powerful… the power to give life and take it away.

God has often been described as All-Knowing (omniscient), All-Present (omnipresent), and All-Powerful (omnipotent) but these things were always used for good… to push God’s plan in a forward direction. He used it to guide and protect… and to lead us back to Him. When Eve and Adam made that unfortunate choice in the Garden, YHWH had to find a way to repair the damage, and so He chose Abraham, and his future family, to be the carriers of the Messianic hope:

Genesis 17:1-5

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHWH appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]; walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”

Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

Being blessed by God Almighty was a blessing of God’s power upon you. And this was the family through which the greatest gift would come… a Redeemer

When Isaac sent his son Jacob to Paddan-aram to find a wife, he said to him, May God Almighty [w-El Shaddai] bless you” (Genesis 28:3), and when Jacob arrived, Isaac’s hope for his son was realized:

Genesis 35:9-12, 15

Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him,“Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel.

God also said to him, “I am God Almighty [ani El Shaddai]; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.” …So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel [House of God].

When Jacob’s family was close to starvation during the great famine, he sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Benjamin, the youngest, stayed home with Jacob. By this time Jacob had considered Joseph (who the brothers had secretly sold into slavey) to be dead. 

Unbeknownst to all of them, Joseph had risen in power in Egypt and it was he whom the brothers faced when they asked for grain. The brothers did not recognize him. The incognito Joseph accused them of espionage, held Simeon hostage and told the others that only if they returned with Benjamin he would reconsider their fate. 

So the nine returned to Jacob and requested to return to Egypt with Benjamin. With great sorrow, Jacob agreed:

Genesis 43:13-14

“Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; and may God Almighty [w-El Shaddai] grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” 

Jacob prayed that God Almighty would grant compassion to his family. They had a need for nourishment (grain), but their need for a nourishing God, and a life-provider, was even greater. 

Joseph was powerful in Egypt and could have destroyed and crushed his brothers. He was as close to being an almighty-human as possible… but instead of being a destroyer, he was a nourisher and a preserver:

Genesis 45:4-7

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.”

Life, redemption and deliverance was promised by Joseph to his brothers, and it was also promised by God to all humanity. 

Before Jacob died he gave blessings to each of his sons. For Joseph he said:

Genesis 49:22-26

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob [avir Yacov] (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty [w-et Shaddai] who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.

Jacob blessed Joseph as his son who had been bitterly attacked, but who was cared for and helped by the Almighty. He blessed his son from the highest heavens to the deepest deep, and ultimately from the All-Nourishing God who distinguished him from his brothers.

Of these early Jewish Patriarch’s God said that He appeared to them as God Almighty, but they did not know His name. This He announced to Moses:

Exodus 6:2-8

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am YHWH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [ba-El Shaddai], but by My name, YHWH, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am YHWH, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am YHWH your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am YHWH.’”

The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had found themselves all enslaved in Egypt, but God Almighty, whose name was YHWH, would get them out. Moses would lead them to the promised land.

But ultimately the greatest promised land was Paradise, the Garden of Eden. It was the place God had always intended humanity to live but, with Adam and Eve’s disobedience, humanity was exiled out of the Garden, and God was left to find a way to get them back. Through the descendants of Abraham He put in place a plan of redemption. 

The Almighty Redeemer

God made a covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:12-17) that an Anointed One (Meshiach/Messiah) would come from his line. The people would be redeemed from a descendant of David, and the story would begin with David’s great grandmother, Ruth.

Ruth 1:19-22

So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty [Shaddai] has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but YHWH has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since YHWH has witnessed against me and the Almighty [w-Shaddai] has afflicted me?”

So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Naomi expressed that she felt the destruction of the Almighty God. With the deaths of her husband and her sons, she felt that God had taken the life out of her existence, that He was against her, and that she was desolate and afflicted. Her life was a ruin.

Did God get angry at her pain? No, the Almighty can destroy, but He can also create… and Naomi’s story was part of the Messiah’s genealogy. The book of Ruth is a creation story. It pushed forward the narrative of redemption… a way for humanity to get back to the Garden of Eden. It was part of God’s Covenant plan to save humanity. Through birth and nourishment, the people would be saved.

Ruth 4:14-17

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is YHWH who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. The neighbour women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

This Almighty God used a birth story to save the people, and it wouldn’t be the last time.

All-Mighty in the New Testament

The New Testeament (B’rit Chadashah in Hebrew) didn’t focus as much on the Almighty/All-Powerful aspects of God… but there are still glimmers of it in there. Power in Greek was dynamis. And One of Power, or a Mighty One, was dynatos. Luke used these words to represent the power of God:

Luke 1:35

The angel answered and said to her [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power [dynamis] of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Mary’s Magnificat (the song she sang just after finding out she would give birth to the Messiah) included this word dynatos:

Luke 1:46-49

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One [dynatos] has done great things for me; and holy is His name.

Luke also used the word to describe how the two men on the road to Emmaus felt about Yeshua (Jesus). They called Him “a prophet mighty [dynatos] in deed” (Luke 24:19). These men originally saw Yeshua as a mighty prophet, but not The Almighty. 

A better Greek word for that concept would be pantokratór, or All Prevailing One.  However, Yeshua (Jesus) never used this word to describe himself, or God, because as the suffering servant, He had a very different agenda. His mandate wasn’t to prove God’s power. It wast to prove God’s love. 

In fact, pantokratór only occurred only ten times in the New Testament. Paul used it once (2 Corinthians 6:18) and all other nine times it can be found in the book of the Revelation. This makes sense, because John’s Revelation was the vision of how God would prevail at the end of humanity’s epic adventure:

Revelation 1:8 (See also Revelation 4:8, 15:3, 16:7,14, 19:15, 21:22)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty [Pantokratór].

At the end of this epic adventure, the Kingdom of God would reign:

Revelation 11:16-17

And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty [Pantokratór], who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.

Revelation 19:6 

Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty [Pantokratór], reigns.”

This was the Almighty God who prevailed. In the “game of thrones”, He won. His Kingdom would reign. He prevailed over all others who desired to take Him down. His plan to save His people, and bring them back to the Garden, would be an overwhelming success. Humanity could not prevail by their own might, they would need the power of Almighty YHWH.

In the Shadow of the Almighty

The Bible, yet again, used a woman who had experienced motherhood (or grand-motherhood) by the grace of God, to identify YHWH as the One who would save (Mary), redeem (Ruth/Naomi) and prevail (Hannah).

When Hannah found herself no longer barren, but pregnant as a gift from God, she celebrated with a prophetic song. In it Hannah recognized that YHWH was both Destroyer and Creator, but also the ultimate Prevailer:

1 Samuel 2:6-9

Hannah:YHWH kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. YHWH makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honour; for the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.

According to Hannah, YHWH had aspects of being Almighty and All-Nourishing; His justice was fair and true… and we NEED Him and His protection. We cannot prevail without Him. We are not All-mighty… we are All-needy.

Psalm 91:1-9

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty [b’tsel Shaddai]. I will say to YHWH, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made YHWH, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.

As All-Needy humans, El Shaddai is our safe dwelling place. He is the All-Creator, All-Nourisher, All-Protecting, and All-Prevailing, Almighty God, and YHWH is His name!

The highest grossing film of all time (Avengers: Endgame) included a super-villain who, with one snap of his fingers, could eliminate half the population of the world. Although he needed some sort of super glove to do it, it was  a little Hollywood nod to what an almighty god could do. Mythic gods of old religions (Greek, Roman, Viking, Canaanite) were motivated by power, dominance, wealth, vengeance, lust, and greed… but our Almighty Creator God is motivated by His LOVE FOR YOU. If you love Him in return, you have an Almighty Super-Power at your right hand who is your Protector, Redeemer, and Loyal Friend. Praise be to El Shaddai!

Next week: Upright

2 thoughts on “Shaddai: Defining the ALMIGHTY”

  1. Hello Sarah,
    Thank you for posting your studies. I yhink thry may assist me in growing closer to The Almighty. Please put me on your list.

    Like

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